Aug 29, 2020

Promoted, then Demoted


22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:

The portion of Matthew’s gospel proclaimed to us last Sunday assured us of our Lord’s care and protection of the Church - so much so he entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom of heaven to St. Peter with the authority of to make life-saving decisions. 

It’s a beautiful image, captured in many paintings, stain glass windows and holt cards. If we simply left it there as the end of the story, we risk seeing St. Peter gilded in coronation robes and seated on a throne - picture perfect, a photo worthy of a Facebook moment with a million “likes”.

Not only can we risk doing this to St. Peter, we also can at times do it to ourselves. We have all had our moments to walk on the red carpet. We all have also had our moments when we tripped and fell, looking around quickly hoping nobody saw us. When we try to save face too often our pride will get in the way. It takes a lot of strength and endurance trying to be a rock of strength and stability for everyone else. But when our strength gives up, or we fail, we can be particularly hard on ourselves, bitter or angry.

For this reason the Church asks us this week to reflect of both the Prophet Jeremiah and, of course, St. Peter. We see them, not in a hall of fame, but in their brokenness and vulnerability. The prophet Jeremiah, having been thrown into a prison pit because his wise and holy counsel was rejected, complains that he was set up - not by his enemies, but by God himself. He accuses God of "dumping" him. He is even mad at himself for agreeing. 

The same, no doubt for St. Peter. Having been entrusted with the keys of office to open and close the doors of heaven, he now offers his educated opinion but he is abruptly told by Christ he is out of line, to be quiet and fall in line behind. Just when he presumed he was trusted to sail his own ship, Christ takes over steering and sends St. Peter the fisherman to the rear of the boat.

Too often we can get so caught up in our 15 minutes of fame, that we can’t think or pray outside the box. We can often become so full of our own sense of importance, that we can easily become so closed minded and arrogant. So let us be courageous before God, acknowledging our weakness and vulnerabilities, in swallowing our pride and trusting in God’s plan and His power without wanting to always understand it.

That doesn't mean that we are like puppets on a string. Far from it, God will sometimes cut the strings from whatever puppet master we sometimes allow to control us. Yes, we will often fall flat on our face and at times find ourselves all tangled up. It will indeed be a cross. But with humble submission to the strength of God’s grace, that cross, in whatever way it may unfold in our lives, will not be the last word. 

Instead, cooperating with the grace of humility, God can use the cross to save me, raise me up and strengthen me in the vocation he has asked me to respond to. That I know, but I pray when the weight of the cross becomes too heavy to carry, that I will not think of myself as solid rock hardened in my own estimation, but clay in the hands of the God I have slowly learnt to trust more and more.

First reading

Jeremiah 20:7–9

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped;

you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.

All the day I am an object of laughter;

everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,

violence and outrage is my message;

the word of the Lord has brought me

derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,

I will speak in his name no more.

But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,

 imprisoned in my bones;

I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.


Matthew 16:21–27

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves.

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 

He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

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